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what do you do with an ugly quilt?

blingy's picture

I just started making a quilt called Remember Me.  It's a simple pattern and I thought I could just fly through it but Dear God, it's ugly!  I am not good at choosing colors!  It has 3 strips inside a square.  I wanted pinks and purples for the strips and greens for the squares.  Jeeze!  They all fight with each other, the colors just do not compliment each other at all, they fight.  The blocks look like a hodge-podge of leftovers, no order or anything.  What should I do?  Since all the fabric is cut should I continue or stop now and start over?  I need 72 blocks and I have 27 finished.  How do you learn to put colors and prints together?  Thanks.




KharminJ's picture

(post #30447, reply #1 of 26)

Oh dear! It's sooooo disappointing when a project you've put a lot of time and energy into simply won't come together the way you wanted!! {{{ Hugs! }}}

Can you post a link to the pattern? Even better would be a photo of the actual fabrics you've got, too ~ It sounds like the colors are too close together in terms of 'intensity' - the level of color - or aren't complementary in some way.

I can think of at least a couple of possible fixes, depending on what the basic problem is...

Oh, and What size are the blocks?

Bright Blessings! Kharmin

blingy's picture

(post #30447, reply #2 of 26)

I will take some pictures and post them later today.  The blocks are 9 inch blocks before putting them all together.  Thanks for the reply and encouragement!



rodezzy's picture

(post #30447, reply #4 of 26)

Yes, posting pictures of the actual fabric and block pattern will help someone to help you.  I'm sure it will be fine.

Rodezzy, Fiber Artist

Rodezzy, Fiber Artist

blingy's picture

(post #30447, reply #5 of 26)

Here are the pictures of the blocks, the pic with just one block is actually my favorite block but there isn't enough fabric to do them all.  You know its bad when you make these things in a class, someone puts them on the design wall and nobody says anything...

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gailete's picture

(post #30447, reply #6 of 26)

Okay, perhaps I'm not seeing what you are, but this is not an ugly quilt and it has great potential! You definitely need some colors that are darker and brighter as many of your fabrics are about the same tone level which can make a quilt be a bit boring, but not ugly. Is this quilt for you or someone else? That makes a big difference if you are trying to use colors that someone else picked, but if this quilt is for you, then you have to think why do you think it is ugly? Be sure when you are putting it together that you aren't putting identical squares together, be sure they are scattered throughout the quilt top. Your border prints can really make this quilt pop, so if you don't have the border prints yet and you aren't sure what to do, take it over to a quilt shop if you have a local one and ask for their help.

Personally, I would be throwing a lot more pink and purple floral fabrics into those strips, but that is what I like. You may just need to add more pink and purple tone on tone prints in the different intensities. You are essentially making a scrap quilt with particular colors and it is amazing how a scrap quilt can look when it is all finished if you use an assortments of the same colors only light and dark, bright and muted. It all comes with practice. Hope this is of some help. Keep us posted. I'm sure the other ladies will have some good things to say.

marymary's picture

(post #30447, reply #7 of 26)

Blingy, I agree with Gail.  It is not an ugly quilt.  It is an unfinished quilt.  Your colors are fine, but you might want to add different values of those colors, and/or additional colors.  Opposites, on the color wheel, can make a big difference.  Fabrics with large designs can look entirely different when cut into smaller pieces, such as for the border(s).  I know you are working with a predetermined pattern, but you might consider adding sashing to get the spark.

If you don't have a stash of quilting fabrics, take the blocks to a fabric store and try putting the blocks on different fabrics to see how they change when close to other fabrics.  Be bold, experiment!

Sancin's picture

(post #30447, reply #8 of 26)

I also do not think it is an ugly quilt, I think the dark green (or what it is) is the problem as it is not in the same colour family as the squares. I would try to replace those corners with a darker colour that is more in line with the centre square colours. You should be able to find some brighter, but same tone fabric.

starzoe's picture

(post #30447, reply #9 of 26)

A colour wheel (buy one at an art store) is a wonderful help when putting colours together. The complementary colour to your purple is yellow. The triad purple/green is completed by adding orange tones. A tetrad would be purple/red-orange/yellow/blue-green.

Your quilt is not ugly, it just needs a pop of colour.

Another source of pleasing colour matches is in advertisements. Advertisers pay multi dollars to designers who will put together something eye-popping. Keep a file of interesting combinations in ads, ones that catch your eye.

Sancin's picture

(post #30447, reply #11 of 26)

Ha - I did not have my colour wheel handy when I sent my response but my first 'gut' reaction was yellow! I couldn't think of the correct words, but I also thought if green was wanted, it should be a yellow green (like new spring leaves).
I have a pretty good colour sense which always surprises me, though I do like muted vs bright colours, which isn't everyone's choice. I actually had some fabric the same colour as the background of the quilt but ended up throwing it out as it was so hard to find anything I liked with it. I do have a lot of problems when selecting a lot of fabrics, as in a complex star quilt or a pieced jacket I am planning to make. I now have so many fabrics my head spins every time I lay them out. I am rather fussy about the type and design size proportions in prints, not just the colours. I seem to have an emotional connection with colour so when I see something in a magazine (or photo)I cut it out. I have a pile now and when I purchase fat quarters they usually compare well with cut out pictures. The pictures seem to work better than several books I have purchased on colour or even the colour wheel. I hope Blingy lets us know what she does - if only to affirm or disagree with suggestions here.

sewelegant's picture

(post #30447, reply #10 of 26)

What happens if you turn some of the blocks and have a zig zag look?

I very much like the inside block colors, but you are right, the background seems to be fighting for attention and does not seem to work.  Go back to the original block you liked and try to see how they placed the different color values... if it is in color that may be hindering your ability to see the values.  Each fabric will have one of three values:  light, medium or dark.  You will not see the pattern you wish to create if you place two fabrics of the same value next to each other when they are supposed to be of different values.  If you do not have an eye to "see" the difference, a quilt shop will carry a plastic piece you hold over the fabric so you can see the difference.  It, basically, just hides the fabric color so you are judging the light, med., darkness (white, gray, or black) of it.

It may help to use graph paper and fill in your blocks by shading in the pattern you want to follow with a soft pencil.  It's a great help to see how your quilt will look before you cut.

I didn't like my first quilt either and I think it was because of the sameness of the values in the fabrics I picked.

regatta's picture

(post #30447, reply #12 of 26)

Blingy - I don't find it ugly, it seems more soothing.  As you do, you could try adding sashing perhaps in a pale soft mustardy yellow of the same colour intensity of the pale pink and blue in the centre parts.  That would complete a version of the prime colours in pale.

Another  thing to try is to stare for a full minute at the blocks then close your eyes - you should see a colour that complements or that is needed.   (Try this  first with a red fabric. You will see the green that will make it  pleasant to your eye.)  This colour could be included in the borders.

When you find a colour that you think might go- hang it up with a couple of blocks somewhere you will see it often - after a while it will either look good or get worse and worse.  Then try again with something else.

Persevere - I bet it could eventually turn out to be a beauty. 


rodezzy's picture

(post #30447, reply #14 of 26)

Ditto, it is not ugly.  Your colors are all what would be considered medium to dark, you have no real contrast, and that can be fine if you like it.  You need what everybody else said, a pop of color .... as in a sashing.  I've learned that whatever color you like the best in a block, if you add more of that color, then the color you like stands out more.  Say you like the soft purple in the quilt and you want to stay in a muted color palette, add more of that fabric.  If you want the blocks to stand out, you will use colors on the opposite side of the color wheel.

I strongly agree that if you take it to a quilt shop, or if you have lots of quilting books, you should be able to find what it needs.  In order to get the desired results, you may have to invest in more fabric after auditioning other colors to your liking for sashing and/or borders.

Personally, I like it a lot. 

Rodezzy, Fiber Artist

Edited 11/17/2009 9:29 am ET by rodezzy

Rodezzy, Fiber Artist

ThreadKoe's picture

(post #30447, reply #18 of 26)

Your quilt to be is not ugly! It is a piece of work still under construction. I agree with the other posters in that it needs a contrasting colour to make it pop. The other suggestion is that the greens are more autumn wile the center blocks are more spring. bringing in some brighter sashing or borders will lighten it up, and heighten the contrast.
On another note, once in a while, everyone makes what I call a "MONSTER". This is a project that just doesn't jive. Finish it anyway, for the learning process. Then use it and love it for it's uniqueness. When you look back at it years from now, you will say "Look how far I have come". Enjoy the process, and just let it come alive in it's own time. Cathy

KharminJ's picture

(post #30447, reply #22 of 26)

Good Morning, Blingy!

I'm really happy to see you looking at this as a "learning experience". They're often aggravating at the time, but so valuable in hindsight!

Looking at your fave block (3.jpg) here's what I see that seem to be missing in the most unhappy ones: ~ the center strip is definitely the 'heaviest' (most pronounced) visually (this can be lighter or darker); the side strips are balanced, even if of different patterns; the corners are different enough, visually, to distinctly *pop* the center.

If you're up to *remaking* some of your completed blocks, you could take off the cross-strip corners, and separate the center strip from the side strips. This gives you 5 pieces from an ex-block. In the 12-block photo, I only see 4 (marked w/ crosses) that really 'need' one of the strips attached to a different corner fabric.

Or, if the seam ripper is NOT your friend, you could dye the "ugliest" blocks, to make them all a similar, darker color, and use them in the border - ?

I agree with everybody - it's not really ugly, just subdued and in need of some tweaking! Even the pros have pieces that they've been fiddling with for years ...!

Bright Blessings! Kharmin

(I have my fingers crossed that the attached photo makes sense - trying to make Word do something it really wasn't designed for!)

Edited 11/19/2009 1:54 pm by KharminJ

Blingyxs_xUgly_Quiltx_x_Gatherings__11-09.doc716.5 KB
KharminJ's picture

(post #30447, reply #23 of 26)


I'm attempting to attach a Word file with the marked up photo - I guess I don't know enough about any of the programs I'm playing with to get it usable (sometime today)!

If anyone would like to see what I've come up with, send me a PM through my profile ("Send an EMail") and I'll cc you - I DO know how to attach docs to email !! LOL Kharmin-the-confused

ThreadKoe's picture

(post #30447, reply #24 of 26)

Kharmin, there is a free downloadable add on, that will take a Word file, and save it as a PDF. I use it all the time, and it makes uploading things much easier, and everyone pretty much can open a PDF. A lot of people have problems opening a Word file. Contact me if you need more info... Cathy

Teaf5's picture

(post #30447, reply #25 of 26)

I agree that you need more contrast of light and dark. Also, you have several greens, several purples, but only one pink. Maybe some darker and lighter pinks would balance it out? Or black or other color bands between the squares, like stained glass, so that each block has a separate visual space.

Should you finish it? Some things to consider are 1) is the exercise--the practice and the activity itself-- worth it-does working on it bring you pleasure? 2) could you use it for a picnic/trunk of the car/camping quilt, or someplace where function is more important than purpose? 3) could you donate it to a homeless shelter or other charity? 4) could you modify/augment the pieced top with tie dye, applique, or slash/rearrange/re-assemble?

If not, you could make a lap quilt from the completed squares, finish it and donate it to an elder center or hospice, using the uncompleted squares as the backing/binding. Ultimately, it's your time, so do what makes you feel the best!

blingy's picture

(post #30447, reply #26 of 26)

Perfect!  I really appreciate everyone's opinions, it certainly was encouraging and I had convinced myself to finish it although I still think its ugly but going ahead and making it smaller and donating it is perfect!  I want to make something for Project Linus anyway or some other organization.  That's what I will do!  Thanks everyone.

marymary's picture

(post #30447, reply #3 of 26)

Blingy, don't give up.  Sometimes it is a case of not using enough colors of different values that make a quilt ugly.  You may have to add some new fabrics and subtract some of what you have. 

You can learn how to put the colors together from reading a lot of books, taking classes, but mostly trial and error.  Do you have a design wall?  A simple one made from foam core board covered with flannel is great.  Fabrics look a lot different to you from a vertical position than from a horizontal position.

Can't wait to see your fabrics.  What may seem ugly to you may not to the rest of us.

suesewing's picture

(post #30447, reply #13 of 26)

I agree that the quilt is not ugly, but it does need some pop! I would try to line up the blocks that have the same background in such a way that they form a zigzag pattern. I might also make more blocks that have the larger scaled floral print that is toward the bottom of one of the pictures. Then I would do a random block that has a more of a vibrant color pulling from the largr scaled floral. Also remember each quilt is a learning experience.

blingy's picture

(post #30447, reply #15 of 26)

Thank you all for responding to what I consider a disaster, at least no one got hurt!  You have given me a lot to think about and it is reassuring to know that this thing might be salvageable afterall.  I like the idea of putting the background greens into a pattern.  I also like the idea of using sashing.  I thought I could get more of the border fabric and use that as sashing.  So much to think about!  I have learned one thing in this process, I do like high contrast, I am not a big fan of too much muted colors.  Life is color so why not why not live big!

Thanks again everyone and I will keep you informed about what I do with this thing.  And oh yes, this quilt is for myself, no one selected the fabrics but me so if it doesn't turn the greatest it's ok, its not going anywhere.




marymary's picture

(post #30447, reply #16 of 26)

Blingy, based on the fact that you said, "I have learned one thing in this process, I do like high contrast, I am not a big fan of too much muted colors.", I would like to recommend the book, "Color from the Heart" by Gai Perry.   It is a series of seven lessons about color theory.  I learned more from this book than any of the other many, many quilting and color theory books I own.

In the first lesson, you learn what colors you tend to use by cutting up scraps, putting them into a bag, drawing them out one by one and making a top.  I just knew that mine would be all blue and green.  I was really surprised to find that it was red and purple.

I diligently followed each lesson and made each top.  Each is a mini-top and I didn't bother to quilt them until I got to lesson 7.  That one is actually a baby quilt size.  The first one I made was a baby quilt, but the size, with an additional row, turned out to be perfect for lap quilts. 

I had a self imposed rule that I could only use fabrics in my stash.  That caused me to really think about the colors and used up some fabric too.  The only one I did buy fabric for was the red, white and blue challenge.  I didn't have any flag fabric and a 4th of July quilt just has to have flags! 

To further state how good I think this book is...I had to buy a second book because I loaned my first one to my artist daughter and she liked it so much she wanted to keep it.  She is new to quilting and was struggling with fabric colors, too.  She was using a predetermined quilt design.  When I told her to make something she likes, the artist in her came out.


starzoe's picture

(post #30447, reply #17 of 26)

I would like to add something to my advice in my past posting. I have a large collection of paint sample cards from - hardware stores usually. They are a valuable source of colours to play with, mix and match (and free!).

suesewing's picture

(post #30447, reply #19 of 26)

Don't forget to post the final result when you finish the quilt

joyfulneedles's picture

(post #30447, reply #20 of 26)

I agree that your quilt is not ugly.  But one other thought in addition to completing the quilt with or without change.  A friend of mine did that years ago with colors that from a distance "read" orange and brown.  She hated it.  But someone came along and asked why she hadn't finished the top, they loved it.  So she finished it for them.  But thank you for posting the pictures and starting the discussion.  I am trying to finish up some other projects so I can try some machine quilting again. 

lou19's picture

(post #30447, reply #21 of 26)

I have a similar problem. I started making patchwork to be used for panels on a brides coat.

I used loads of different whites, creams and beiges. But instead of looking elegant it just looked dull.

I've taken the scissors to it and am cutting it up, trying smaller pieces and adding some muted colours.

If your design doesn't work you have nothing to lose my changing it. I try and think about  my orginal inspiration but you have to be willing to change if that seems to be what the fabric wants.